Sophora Flavescens for Heart and Liver Health?

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Sophora flavescens is an herb said to fight cancer and treat a wide range of health conditions. It's a commonly used remedy in traditional Chinese medicine, where it's referred to as "ku shen" (meaning "bitter root"). Some research suggests that the herb may have estrogen-like effects.

Uses for Sophora Flavescens

Sophora flavescens is touted in alternative medicine as a natural remedy for the following health problems:

When applied topically, Sophora flavescens is thought to promote hair growth and offer whitening effects.

In traditional Chinese medicine, Sophora flavescens has long been used in the treatment of such conditions as dysentery, fever, intestinal parasites, and jaundice.

The Health Benefits of Sophora Flavescens

Preliminary studies have determined that Sophora flavescens contains a number of compounds with antioxidant effects. There's also some preliminary evidence that this herb may help treat or prevent a variety of health problems. Here's a look at the possible benefits of Sophora flavescens:

1)  Asthma

Sophora flavescens shows promise in the treatment of asthma, according to a small study published in Phytotherapy Research in 2007. Involving 14 people with asthma, the study found that Sophora flavescens may help ease asthma symptoms, enhance respiratory function, and reduce use of inhaled corticosteroids and beta-agonists (two treatments commonly used for asthma control).

2)  Hepatitis

A small clinical trial published in the Journal of Viral Hepatitis in 2000 suggests that Sophora flavescens may aid in the treatment of hepatitis B. 

For the study, 94 people with hepatitis B were treated with either kurorinone (a compound extracted from Sophora flavescens) or interferon-alpha (a medication used to slow the growth of the hepatitis B virus) for three months.

After a 12-month follow-up, the study's authors found that treatment with kurorinone may inhibit virus replication and improve disease remission in patients with hepatitis B.

3)  Heart Health

Several preliminary studies indicate that Sophora flavescens may help treat high cholesterol (a major risk factor for heart disease). In a rat-based study published in Biological & Pharmaceutical Bulletin in 2008, for example, scientists observed that treatment with Sophora flavescens may reduce cholesterol levels and as well as protect against cholesterol-related hardening of the arteries.

In another preliminary study published in Biological & Pharmaceutical Bulletin in 2008, researchers found that compounds extracted from Sophora flavescens may help prevent LDL oxidation. A key factor in the development of high cholesterol, LDL oxidation occurs when oxygen is added to LDL (so-called "bad") cholesterol.

Some preliminary research also shows that Sophora flavescens may shield heart health by protecting against arrhythmia (i.e., abnormal heart rhythm). In a study published in Phytotherapy Research in 2010, tests on rats demonstrated that oxymatrine (a compound extracted from the root of the Sophora flavescens plant) may have antiarrhythmic effects.

More: 15 Heart-Healthy Superfoods and 8 Delicious Foods Remedies for High Blood Pressure

4)  Cancer

There's some preliminary evidence that Sophora flavescens may possess anti-cancer properties. For instance, a study published in the American Journal of Chinese Medicine in 2010 suggests that matrine (a compound extracted from Sophora flavescens) may combat breast cancer.

In the study, tests on human and mouse breast cancer cells revealed that matrine may help fight breast cancer in part by inducing apoptosis (a type of programmed cell death essential for stopping the proliferation of cancer cells).

What's more, matrine appeared to slowed the growth of breast tumors in mice, as well as inhibit the spread of tumors to the lung and liver.


Because this herb may have estrogen-like effects, there's some concern that Sophora flavescens may be harmful to individuals with hormone-sensitive conditions. These conditions include endometriosis and uterine fibroids, as well as breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

Talk to your doctor if you're considering the use of Sophora flavescens in treatment of any condition. Self-treating with this herb and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

Where to Find It

Available for purchase online, dietary supplements containing Sophora flavescens are sold in some natural-food stores and stores specializing in herbal products.


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Shen CC, Lin TW, Huang YL, Wan ST, Shien BJ, Chen CC. "Phenolic constituents of the roots of Sophora flavescens." J Nat Prod. 2006 Aug;69(8):1237-40.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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